Sviatoslav Richter in 1966
When you become a Beethoven fanatic, one of the questions that arises is who are the go-to musicians for performance.
I don't have any strong feelings yet about conductors, although I like George Szell's recordings with the Cleveland Orchestra.
I have been particularly interested in piano players. Until recently, I pledged allegiance to Alfred Brendel, and I still like him very much. His are the performances I prefer for the "Pathetique" and "Waldstein" sonatas. But lately I have become very interested in a Russian pianist, Sviatoslav Richter.
There are obviously many talented pianists who have tacked Beethoven, but there is something about Richter which is spellbinding. He also recorded a lot of Prokofiev, so he concentrated on two of my favorite composers.
There are many stories about Richter; who knows if they are true. Supposedly, one of his first recitals in Moscow was poorly attended — at first. The room was full at the end of the recital, because everyone in the audience ran out the door at intermission to find their friends and demand that they come.
One interesting fact about Richter is that he apparently only played and recorded pieces he was interested in. So while he recorded many Beethoven sonatas, there is no complete set of sonatas. He liked Haydn better than Mozart, and indeed, his Mozart does not particularly interest me.
He also didn't like recording as much as he liked playing live, so many of his albums are live recordings.
When you look for Richter albums (he is well represented in the two public library digital music apps, Freegal and Hoopla) almost any all-Beethoven recital is likely to be good.
This album, recorded in England in 1975, seems particularly good to me. There's a fine performance of the "Hammerklavier" and a radiant rendering of the No. 3 piano sonata, plus three bagatelles.
I asked fellow Beethoven fanatic Eric Wagner for his suggestions for pianists. He replied, "Following Rafi Zabor, I love Solomon for 106, 109 and 111 and Schnabel for 109 and 111. I also love Rosen's op. 54 and 106. And Richter's Appassionata."